Can America Finance Freedom? Assessing U.S. Democracy Promotion via Economic Statecraft
Political Science and International Affairs
Recent discourse on U.S. efforts to promote democracy has focused on military activities; especially the strategic and normative perils of democracy promotion at the point of bayonets. This paper explores the United States' use of economic statecraft to foster democratization, with particular attention to democracy incentive and assistance strategies. Incentive approaches attempt to promote democracy from the top-down, by leveraging aid and trade privileges to persuade authoritarian leaders to implement political reform. Assistance approaches aim to induce democratization from the inside, through funding and technical assistance to state institutions, and from the bottom-up, by providing support to civil society and elections. This study finds that while top-down incentive approaches can stimulate democratic change, this strategy tends to work only when aid and trade benefits are conditional; that is, when benefits are withheld until recipient states meet rigorous democratic benchmarks. Washington has historically eschewed democratic conditionality, however, and thus can claim very few aid-induced or trade-induced democratization events. Scant evidence exists to demonstrate that inside approaches—that is, institutional aid—possesses significant capacity to induce democracy. It is the bottom-up approach—empowering the masses to compel democratic change—that has registered the greatest number of democracy promotion successes.
Foreign Policy Analysis
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